Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Leaning Windward

What the old man said about me was accurate. He’s been dead a while now and I’d forgotten about it, but his words have been popping back into my head a lot lately. “You have the character of the tiller,” he told me.

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“You know when someone stretches way out over the windward gunnel when a sailboat leans too far? He’s trying to bring the mast upright lest the boat capsize.”

“Yes,” I said. “I’ve seen that.”

“That’s what you try to do in your writing.” 

He was a liberal, but more of a classical liberal than a leftist or a “progressive” as they call themselves today. He was willing to consider any idea on its merit and wasn’t dubious because it might be conservative. If he didn’t agree he would argue logically, not acrimoniously. Together we formed a political discussion group, an old-fashioned salon. For the first few years it was all men, many of them WWII vets and all somewhat left of center, I was too — then. I was the youngest member at a time when my own perspective started moving right. We met every two weeks in a library the old man had built in part of his barn.
The old man

During the ten or so years of my involvement I was still a Democrat, but the party’s movement left was accelerating. The old man saw me trying to counteract that in my writing even before I did. I had voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, but was dismayed by what he was doing and considered resigning from the Democrat Party, but the old man urged me to work from within. Our group started moving left also as new members came in and railed against Clinton’s impeachment. I began to skip meetings and eventually stopped attending altogether. Not long after, the group disbanded.
My movement right continued. I registered Republican but I was still feeling isolated as the education establishment was moving harder left along with all of New England, including Maine’s Republican Party. Some in the community began assuming that I was inculcating students with the same conservative views I expressed in my columns. I was “poisoning young minds,” they claimed. They pressured my district’s administrators, the school board, and Maine’s teacher licensing agency to discipline me and worse. My administrators knew their charges were baseless but had to respond to their complaints with an investigation. I was cleared, but being an out-of-the-closet conservative in public schools got increasingly difficult. Other leftists came after me too, which is the subject of a book I’m still working on.

Nationwide now, acrimony dominates left-right debate and is increasing to dangerous levels — even to violent attacks by far-left "Antifa" goons on college campuses and in the streets. That’s bad enough, but what is perhaps worst of all is something The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol wrote last week:

For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.
They don't like that face. And the danger, of course, is that they'll decide their judgment of Trump should carry over to the Republican party that nominated him and the conservative movement that mostly supports him. If he is indeed permitted to embody the party and the movement without challenge, the fortunes of both will be at the mercy of President Trump's own fortunes.

Trump’s fortunes are tanking. That scares me because I think Kristol’s analysis is on the mark. At the 41st annual convention of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists last weekend, I sat in the audience as Maureen Dowd delivered a devastatingly effective diatribe against Trump. The smart-ass Irish wit in her DNA was on full display. On Ms. Dowd’s bad side isn’t a safe place for anyone to be. Earlier that day, Manchester Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid, a conservative, also displayed his disdain for Trump in just a couple of short remarks.
Trump and McQuaid

With majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans cannot unite behind Trump and, so far, Trump isn’t a good enough leader to bring them together. Has he got it in him to become one? I hope so, but I’m not optimistic. At this point, I’m afraid of how much more damage he’ll do to the conservative movement if he doesn’t.
In Bill Kristol, I see myself as the old man saw me thirty years ago. He’s been leaning far out over the gunnel too, trying to steer his party away from Trump. He has a bigger megaphone and might persuade more people to join him.
I’m a small-time columnist and he’s the founder and editor of a widely respected, national, conservative magazine. Can he prevent the conservative Republican ship of state from capsizing? Can he bring the mast up straight? I don't know. We’ll see.


Anonymous said...

You misunderstand the Trump phenomenon. During the campaign he was much closer to a 3rd party than to mainstream Republicans. Trump was never a traditional conservative. In fact, there is a wave of populism sweeping across the globe, not just in the US. Trump was only one reflection of that. Bernie Sanders was another.

Both the mainstream parties have severe internal problems and are barely able to hold together their coalitions.

Trump is problematic, though. He is inexperienced and prone to egotism and pettiness. He continually causes himself more trouble. And all that tweeting! Certainly his style and behavior are not what we are used to in traditional presidents.

Voters took a chance on him because they were not content with the status quo, with globalism, with foreign intervention. It is far too early to tell to judge him on his achievements.

I would prefer a bumbling Trump who struggles through four years than the competent Bush/Cheney who got us into a disastrous foreign war, increased the deficit, increased the surveillance state, and presided over the biggest stock market crash since the Great Depression.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Three weeks ago, I wrote that I'd vote for him again given the same choices. I think that still holds. Hillary? No way. But Gary Johnson? Jill Stein? Uh-uh.

"He is inexperienced and prone to egotism and pettiness. He continually causes himself more trouble. And all that tweeting!" you say. Exactly right. How long until he smartens up? I imagine his cabinet members talking amongst themselves sometimes and asking how they can get him to stop, that he's embarrassing them, that he's making their jobs more difficult with his immature behavior.

Brian said...

It is a shame that you let slip away your father's notion of discussing and debating matters acrimoniously. Now, your columns are the very definition of acrimonious, filled with bitterness, sarcasm, and mean-spirited name-calling (ala "fat feminists"). The photos you include are almost all petty attempts at poking and angering the other side.

As for the differences listed between "liberal" and "progressive", I guess i would often fall on the side of progressive when it comes to the idea of protecting the rights of people to use their free speech with hate speech, the N word and other hateful, racist comments. I do defend the right for any conservative to speak out in an acrimonious way though, no matter what their sentiment may be.

Tom McLaughlin said...

The old man was not my father. He was an an acquaintance who lived nearby. I chose not to name him, but the photo is from his book on his WWII experience as navigator on a B-17 bomber.

Radio Patriot said...

Re: your comment in which you wrote: "I imagine his cabinet members talking amongst themselves sometimes and asking how they can get him to stop, that he's embarrassing them, that he's making their jobs more difficult with his immature behavior."

Not exactly on the bubble. Quoting from yesterday's Rush Limbaugh show:

"Yesterday we had the cabinet meeting, and it was amazing. It was the first cabinet meeting with every cabinet secretary there. It’s taken this long to have them all confirmed. So they’re there, and it started out with each cabinet secretary, like the first day back in school from the summer. What you did during the summer; who you are; who’s your neighbor, what have you been working on; what are you gonna be working on; how much you like the teacher. And, of course, all that happened.

The cabinet secretaries, the ones that have been there described the work they’re doing as it relates to the Trump agenda. They talked about how great Trump is; how much they’re honored to be part of the Trump administration and the regime; how thrilled they are to be part of the cabinet; how exciting the agenda is, and the Drive-Bys were fit to be tied. The media was fit to be tied, and the Democrat Party was fit to be tied. And it’s mostly psychological.

Trump and his people are not supposed to be smiling. They’re supposed to be defeated. People are supposed to be defecting from Trump’s cabinet by now. People are supposed to be publicly resigning and raking Trump over the coals for being whatever the left thinks he is.

I mean, they’ve loaded the guns every day. They have fired the best they’ve got, and Trump is still there. Trump is still standing. Trump is still smiling. His cabinet’s still happy to be there and honored. And it doesn’t seem to be affecting Trump at all, at least outwardly, which is what the opponents of Trump want. They want to see some sign that they’re getting to him. They want to see some sign that Trump is beginning to crumble. They want to see any indication whatsoever that all of these political assassinations and these hit pieces and the silent coup taking place, they want evidence, they want visible evidence and examples that it’s working. And Trump just isn’t giving it to them.

So this cabinet thing set ’em off anew yesterday. " -- Rush Limbaugh


Anonymous said...

That cabinet meeting!!!! Wow, next level weird seeing these people see who can stick their lemming-like noses furthest up the orange one's a$$.

Colbert Joked, “I did not know Trump has such a strict please-check-your-balls-at-the-door policy.”

“This is an unprecedented public strokefest for an emotionally frail man,” he added.

It seemed like a scene out of a Marx Brothers comedy. But five months into the Trump presidency, such tin-pot theatrics have become commonplace. What is shocking is not so much the deep insecurity of Donald Trump, but the speed with which his aides and enablers have contorted themselves to flatter his fragile ego. Within the Cabinet Room on Monday, there was an unspoken understanding among all the president’s men (and four women) that the nation’s intemperate chief executive is fundamentally unwell, and in need of constant assurance. The world outside may be unforgiving of his failures, but in the safe space that Trump has created inside the West Wing, he remains the all-knowing, omnicompetent billionaire that he played on TV.

Brian said...

Father or not, do you ever feel that you should be following the great man's example as far as not being acrimonious? Do you ever wonder if taking the low road is really effective, let alone the right thing? The old man sounds like someone who could really have a calm and rational discussion with people, perhaps even swaying a few minds on some points. Your columns, by comparison, are written very acrimoniously, which the choir may enjoy but are merely dismissed outright, scoffed at, or laughed at by the left. Good entertainment I suppose, but there is nothing productive about them when it comes to actually making things better.

Anonymous said...

Keep hammerin' Mr. M
My only critique...
EVERYBODY KNOWS....in New England, old barns no longer used for livestock and such, are meant to store mountains of JUNK!
A library? In the BARN! I'm soooooooo jealous. Wish I'd thought of that.
I have to settle for one room. Ok and a few book cases in the house. Ok, those, and the stacks in my man cave. Oh wait, and that one old armoire that's...um...out in the barn.

Tom McLaughlin said...

"...are merely dismissed outright, scoffed at, or laughed at by the left."

The left will not be persuaded by rational argument. It's not in their nature. It's also easy and fun to press their buttons.

And look, you keep coming back.

Brian said...

I do keep coming back for a few reasons. for laughs, for the chance to see how the alt-right thinks, and because it is just so darn easy and fun to push your buttons (and those that agree with you).

The ONLY thing that will persuade the left is rational arguement, in which science plays a large role. It seems to be the right that is only persuaded by their "feelings" and their bible, and their talking heads.

Peter said...

As a liberal I also like to read and hear what conservatives have to say about issues, but I have found myself coming less frequently to this blog due to the obvious attempts at trying to push buttons instead of engaging in rational discussion. I have respect for conservative columnists like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and others who write with a rational intelligence, and yes, they have from time to time changed my opinion on things. Making blanket statements like "it is not in their nature" is just juvenile and boring.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analogy about righting the mast. It seems to me though that you do not want the mast upright, but would prefer to have it leaning way over to the right. With a Republican president, congress, and senate we are in danger of the boat leaning so far right it capsizes. Especially with an incompetent skipper at the helm.